Whisky.com Complete Guide to Scotch Whisky

Laphroaig 40 Year Old

Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Argyll, Scotland PA42 7DU
Tel. 01496 302418
Inquiries and Purhases Click Here

The destiny of Laphroaig and Islay are inextricably linked. The isle of Islay is a windswept juxtaposition of rock, peat and heather, cast adrift from the Scottish mainland to the East. The unique character of Laphroaig® has never been duplicated, even by the distillery’s closest neighbours, but is partly derived from the distillery’s location on the spray soaked coast, as well as the peat which flavours the water and smokes the barley.

Where bracing waves and stinging spray reign supreme you will find Warehouse No. 1, the oldest of its type at Laphroaig. The building has an ash floor, which, combined with its exposed position on the rocky shore, creates a cool, damp, temperate atmosphere. These ancient, wave battered walls protected the distillery’s oldest whisky, Laphroaig® 40 Year Old - $3,200

Lapgroaig 40 year old

Photo by Michael Castello

Laphroaig® 40 Year Old

During its four decade sleep, each of the European oak casks, in which this unique example of Laphroaig® has matured, will have lost over half of the original contents of whisky to the Islay atmosphere through evaporation. Known as the “angels’ share” this naturally occurring process has allowed the salt laden air of the Laphroaig Bay to enter the cask and over the years subtly influence the character of the maturing whisky.

Laphroaig® 40 Year Old has been created by the artistry of the nature of Islay coupled with the application of one woman. Untouched for forty years, Laphroaig® 40 Year Old has gone straight from the cask to the bottle at 42.4% vol and is the oldest Laphroaig EVER produced!

With a never to be repeated production run of just under 2,400 bottles, Laphroaig® 40 Year Old has strict distribution with a retail price of £1000 inc vat.

Produced using distilling methods first established in 1815, Laphroaig® 40 Year Old was laid down by one of the foremost lady distillers and distillery owners, Bessie Williamson. Known and respected for her vision and love of Laphroaig, Bessie used European oak to mature this particular vintage rather than the American oak Bourbon casks which are more commonly used today.

The barrels have lain undisturbed in Warehouse No. 1, the oldest maturation building at Laphroaig, which is sited at the edge of the sea. During its 40 years in the warehouse, a percentage of the maturing whisky has been lost due to evaporation and replaced by the salt-laden air of Laphroaig Bay. The resulting rich and mellow whisky has been bottled at its original cask strength.

Iain Henderson, Laphroaig's Distillery Manager at the time, had this to say, "Laphroaig® 40 Year Old is a superlative whisky from one of the greatest periods in our history, with a distinctiveness you would expect from the crowning addition to the Laphroaig® family

LAPHROAIG® 40 YEAR OLD – One Famous Distiller, One Famous Whisky

Laphroaig has many distinctions not the least being that for many years the distillery was run and eventually owned by a lady.
This was of course the famous Bessie Williamson. She was the young lady who came to Laphroaig from Glasgow University just to run the office for the summer of 1933 when the office clerkess took ill.

The young Bessie learned the art of making whisky from the owner of Laphroaig, Ian Hunter and his contemporaries. As he became older, Ian passed on more and more of the responsibility to Miss Bessie, as she came to be known, and just before hostilities broke out in 1939, he had already established her as the Manager.

Bessie also undertook foreign trips on Ian Hunters behalf, selling the Laphroaig and at the same time deciding in her own mind how the distillery should progress for the future.

The Beginnings of the Laphroaig 40 year old

In 1954 when Ian Hunter died, he left the distillery to Bessie, with a stipulation that its quality and high standards should be maintained above everything, and it has been ever since.

With her drive and energy she set about increasing the level of production at Laphroaig, still using the best barley she could obtain, and ensuring that the water was of the correct purity, and the peat of the finest character.
The Beginnings of the Laphroaig 40 year old

After the 1959 harvest, Bessie bought from a local farmer what she thought was a particularly good batch of barley of a variety called “Golden Promise”. This was processed through our own maltings and used to produce a fine whisky, as unique as the Island itself.

In those days, the majority of whisky was matured in old sherry or wine casks, and many of these were rebuilt as hogsheads and it is from casks of this type that this 40 year old whisky was matured in. They would have been made from European oak, probably a variety called “Quercus Robur”. On the 14th March 1960, a number of these hogsheads were filled and placed to mature in No 1 warehouse alongside the beach which fronts the distillery. This is the building with the name in large letters on it, and is subjected to all that the elements in the form of the Atlantic Ocean can fling at it.

During the winter gales from November through to March, very often you can taste the salt on your lips and the smell of the seaweed permeates through the whole building, but for all that, the temperature has a very narrow range as befits a temperate climate. Just perfect for the maturing of a very special Islay Malt Whisky.

Can there be a more perfect example of Laphroaig’s Islay Whisky?

Best Islay grown barley, malted and aged on our premises using our own peat, mashed and distilled in Bessie Williamson’s own way (which is still the way today). Finally matured in No 1 Warehouse for just over 40 years. It is perhaps the perfect example of the Laphroaig distillers art from many years ago.